Update 12th November 2020
Research project work underway again.
I am very pleased to update on the re-start of our laboratory processing and analysis work. As I previously reported in my April update, all laboratory work was paused in March in compliance with official government guidance on social distancing. Access to all University campuses, including at Brunel University London, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and, the University of Leicester, has been strictly controlled since lockdown started, which has impacted on all parts of our ongoing study into the ‘Genetic and Cytogenetic assessment of veterans and their families’.
At the time of closure, we had already received over 80% of the samples for this study, all of which have been processed and are at various stages of analysis. All samples have been stored in carefully controlled environments, so lockdown would have had no impact on the quality or integrity of the samples. From October, we have been getting our systems back up and running to pick up from where we left off in March and continue with the good progress we had been making.
We anticipate timelines for such completion and subsequent drafting and submission of a manuscript for the whole genome sequence analysis part of this work, which is looking at germline mutation induction in test veterans’ families, to be made within the next 6 months. Our progress with all cytogenetic work will follow this, with expectations for submission of manuscripts for peer review through 2021.
At the time of closure, we had a small number of families recruited onto the study who had yet to provide us with blood samples. We are getting back in touch with these families when it is appropriate to do so.
The past few months have clearly impacted us with regards to time, however our progress on all CHRCs projects is continuing in as timely a manner as possible. We thank you all for understanding and extend our gratitude to everyone who has volunteered and contributed to all our projects.
Update 3rd April 2020
It will come as no surprise that we have had to stop all laboratory work in compliance with official guidance on social distancing and University campus closures. This means that we are unable to accept any new blood samples from those recruited onto the study and are unlikely to do so in the near future. We shall be back in touch with families who are expecting to provide us with samples when it is appropriate to do so. The good news is however that at the time of closure, we had already received over 80% of your samples for the study, all of which are processed and at various stages of analysis. We thank once again all those families for their continued support and efforts in achieving this.
Our lab closures unfortunately also mean our progress with the whole genome sequence work and cytogenetic analysis is also on hold for the time-being. We had been confident we were on course to complete analysis on some aspects of this study by the end of this year, however this will need to be reviewed once we are back working to full capacity again.
All other projects are continuing through remote working. For instance, data collection is complete for the ‘Exposure Worry’ study and analysis of the results of the surveys and transcripts of the interviews is underway. Similarly, data collection from two rounds of in-depth interviews is also complete for the ‘Intervention for Wellbeing’ study and is currently being written in a creative nonfiction style to represent the findings in a way that is both novel and accessible to all. Again, our researchers would like to thank everyone who volunteered and contributed to these projects.
CHRC staff remain working and are contactable via email at CHRC@brunel.ac.uk. During this period and over the Easter break there may be a delay in replying. But please get in touch if you have any queries and please all keep well.
We present an update below of our studies for which we have sought your participation:
Cytogenetic and genetic assessment of British nuclear test veterans and their families
The aim of this study is to determine whether the participation of British military personnel at nuclear test sites has resulted in a genetic legacy for test veteran families. If the veterans were exposed to ionising radiation as a consequence of their military service then chromosomal markers consistent with such exposures may still be detectable in cells of their peripheral blood. Additionally if the DNA of their children has been altered then we should be able to identify these changes using whole genome sequence analysis and a variety of cytogenetic techniques. If no genetic differences are seen in comparison to a control group, then this will be useful and reassuring knowledge for the nuclear community.
The recruitment of veteran family trios (father, mother and child) for the study began after we received the ethical and legal go-ahead to proceed. Please refer to the diagram here to see our recruitment process. Since January 2018, we have sent ~3600 study invitations to GP practices and encourage all those who receive an invitation to respond. We are pleased to report that we have now reached our recruitment target for nuclear test veteran couples and are progressing to move all families through the lengthy recruitment and consent process.
Blood samples are being received (the first sample arrived on 14th February 2018) and are being processed in the laboratory for the analytical assessments being undertaken. These assessments are another major phase of our project. The tests are being performed in an anonymised manner; i.e. the scientists do not know whether the individual family has any association with nuclear tests. It is only once all the analysis has been completed that we can begin to de-anonymise and use statistical tests to examine if there are any differences between test veteran and control family groups.
To read more about this project please visit https://www.chrc4veterans.uk/2180-2/.
Sport, Culture & Wellbeing: Community approaches to promote the wellbeing of British Nuclear Test Veterans and their families: Amy Prescott (PhD student)
This research project aims to understand how community sport and cultural activities may help and contribute to improving the health and wellbeing of British nuclear test veterans and their families.
Amy’s project has three distinct phases. Phase 1 involves the recruitment of volunteers to participate; Phase 2 is principally focussed upon data collection while Phase 3 aims to co-design community projects.
Amy has progressed well with Phase 1 and has formally consented 30 people for her study. She achieved this by advertising details of her project to ~950 members of the nuclear community and communicating the various legal and ethical documentations necessary between those who responded. Amy started Phase 2 of the project involving collection of data in November 2018 and by March 2019 had completed telephone interviews with 23 of these volunteers, each call lasting ~45 minutes. Following from this, Amy has since conducted thirteen face-to-face interviews with participants and all additional telephone interviews are due for completion by the end of August.
To read more about this project please visit https://www.chrc4veterans.uk/sport-culture-wellbeing/.
Exposure Worry, Ageing and Cognitive Functioning: An in-depth study of British Nuclear Test Veterans: George Collett (PhD student)
The aim of this study is to examine factors associated with an important aspect of healthy ageing and quality of life, namely cognitive functioning. Cognitive functioning is the ability to perform everyday mental tasks such as thinking, reasoning and remembering.
In May 2018 George started his project with a focus group involving six test veterans and two test veteran wives who helped in the development of a proposed ‘exposure worry’ scale. During August 2018, George held telephone discussions with a handful of test-veterans to gain further insight into the design and content of this proposed scale. This was then followed up with a larger test for reliability in September and December 2018 gaining feedback from 120 respondents.
George has now moved on to the next stage of his project. Between January and March 2019, George sent out around 240 research packs and has thus far had over 90 short questionnaires returned. From this he has conducted 60 telephone cognitive assessments generating new information which he will use to make predictions regarding exposure worry and cognitive functioning.
To read more about this project please visit https://www.chrc4veterans.uk/living-with-worry/.
We wish to thank all of our volunteers for taking part in our studies and for their support.
14th November 2018
Recruitment update for the genetic and cytogenetic assessment
Inviting and recruiting British nuclear test veteran families, plus control families, to CHRC’s ‘Genetic and cytogenetic Study’ is a process that takes time to get right.
In January this year, we had the go-ahead to start sending out invitation packages to veteran couples via their GP. Once couples respond, there are many screening and interviewing steps we need to do, so that we only include consenting, eligible individuals in our study. The multi-step process is shown in a diagram here.
This process has been designed this way, along standard and rigorous scientific principles, so that the study is as fair as possible, limiting bias which might otherwise mean the study’s findings aren’t as strong as they must be.
We have now reached the milestone of 50% of our recruitment target. Our target is for 100 family trios – each trio being a biologically related group of father, mother and child – split evenly between nuclear test veteran families and control families. We are also regularly receiving blood from those family trios who have reached the end of our multi-step recruitment process.
We have already started the genetic and cytogenetic testing of blood samples, so analysis is well underway. In the meantime, families continue to move through our recruitment process. It is time-consuming and involves a good deal of effort, so it is rewarding to see, week by week, more blood samples arriving at our labs.
This recruitment rate is in line with our expectations, and we will provide an update when we have hit 100% of our target.
11th April 2018
In response to the Sunday Mirror article published on 8th April 2018
A news article published by the Sunday Mirror in April 2018 claims that the Nuclear Community Charity Fund Genetic Study is having difficulty finding enough families to take part in their study.
In fact, the study team are making steady progress with recruitment, as veterans are invited to take part in a continuous flow, with many invited veterans and their families now progressing through the various stages of the study (eligibility, consent, interview) prior to the blood sampling stage at the end.
The study team would like to thank all participating families for their support of the study and are grateful for all replies from respondents who have been invited to participate in the study via their GP practice. Unfortunately, the study team are unable to accept volunteers for the study due to the bias that this may create, but would appeal to veterans who have been sent a letter from their GP practice to respond to the study team if they think they might be eligible to take part.